MLB trends: Has Father Time caught up to Nelson Cruz?; Camden Yards' new dimensions making notable difference

The 2022 MLB routine season is a bit more than a month old and currently we have actually had 2 no-hitters. Last month 5 Mets pitchers integrated to no-hit the Phillies. On Tuesday, Angels novice lefty Reid Detmers no-hit the Rays. A record 9 no-hitters were included 2021. Will we approach that record in 2022? We’re off to an excellent start, if absolutely nothing else.

With that in mind, our weekly series breaking down numerous patterns throughout the league continues Wednesday with a take a look at one veteran slugger’s battles, an emerging reducer, and a ballpark’s improvement. Last week we take a look at the Red Sox’s rough bottom of the lineup, Alex Cobb’s newly found speed, and the increasing strikeout rate in the low minors.

The uncomfortable indications with Cruz

Reader, it brings me no enjoyment to inform you we might be seeing completion of Nelson Cruz’s terrific profession. The future 42-year-old is dealing with a one-year, $15 million agreement with the Nationals and he’s been awful in the early going: .170/.258/.255 in 121 plate looks. The underlying numbers heading into Tuesday’s video game were packed with problematic indications:

  • 89.0 miles per hour typical exit speed (below 92.9 miles per hour in 2021)
  • 40.7 percent hard-hit rate (below 52.0 percent in 2021)
  • 8.6 percent barrel rate (below 13.5 percent in 2021)
  • 57.5 percent ground ball rate (up from 42.9 percent in 2021)
  • .179 AVG and .313 SLG vs. fastballs (below .297 AVG and .572 SLG vs. fastballs in 2021)

The traditional indications of a slowing bat are a decrease in hard-hit capability, a boost in ground balls, vulnerability to fastballs, and a boost in swings and misses out on. Cruz is in fact swinging and missing out on less than in 2015 (12.8 percent vs. 14.1 percent), though all the other warnings exist. He’s having problem with fastballs and he’s putting more weakly strike balls on the ground.

“I wouldn’t be worried about him just yet. He’s proven that he gets the benefit of the doubt because of the career that he’s had,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo informed NBC Sports Washington’s Matt Weyrich recently. “…Shortened spring training, veteran player, he needed those five weeks to get his body into shape. He joined us late.”

The Twins traded Cruz to the Rays on July 22 last season, and although he was not as efficient with Tampa (.226/.283/.441) as he was with Minnesota (.294/.370/.527), the hidden numbers were strong. He was still striking the ball hard in the air, he was simply not being rewarded as much. Now Cruz appears to have actually lost that capability. At minimum, we have not seen it yet in 2022.  

Cruz has actually had a genuinely impressive profession. He did not play his very first complete MLB season till age 28 and just Barry Bonds (317) and Hank Aaron (245) struck more crowning achievement after age 35 than Cruz (211). Cruz is a seven-time All-Star and an MVP vote-getter in 5 various seasons (consisting of 2 sixth-place surfaces). He’s likewise among the most cherished clubhouse men in the sport.

The just thing Cruz is missing out on is a World Series ring, that made his choice to sign with the Nationals so curious. They lost 97 video games a year back and seemed even worse this season. I expect Cruz might have signed up with Washington with the understanding they would trade him to a competitor at the due date, though that appears extremely made complex. Why not eliminate the middle male?

Either method, Father Time comes for all of us, and there are signs he has actually come for Cruz. Cruz hasn’t revealed the capability to strike the ball hard this season (as a DH, striking the ball tough is the single essential ability), nor has he had the ability to manage fastballs. There’s still four-and-a-half months to play, however indications indicate age-related decrease. It was bound to occur ultimately, and honestly it’s amazing it didn’t occur quicker. Rarely is a gamer as efficient as Cruz into his 40s. 

Helsley becoming relief ace

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What a start to the season for Cardinals righty Ryan Helsley. Over the last 3 seasons the 27-year-old Helsley was an alluring hard-thrower with less than excellent outcomes (4.03 period and 1.89 K/BB in 96 relief innings from 2019-21). Early on this year he’s made the dive to authentic bullpen beast. His numbers are practically humorous: 10 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 20 K. Goodness.

Helsley has actually struck 100 miles per hour lot of times in the past, and this season he owns MLB’s fastest pitch at 103.1 miles per hour. He tossed 8 pitches over 100 miles per hour in one 18-pitch getaway versus the Diamondbacks. It was a power pitching trip de force.

“I think we’re seeing a fully healthy, confident Helsley,” Cardinals supervisor Oliver Marmol informed Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last month. “When you’re seeing 100 with off-speed pitches for strikes, he’s going to be a huge part of this bullpen.”

Three years back Helsley fought a throbbing shoulder and last season it was a knee problem that caused jeopardized mechanics and, ultimately, a tension response in his elbow. Helsley had season-ending surgical treatment to tidy up the knee in August. Now, with a healthy knee, he’s tightened up his mechanics and included much more to his fastball, which now sits around 99 miles per hour.

Here’s what Helsley informed The Athletic’s Katie Woo about his healthy knee:

“I felt like on my front side I wasn’t landing as strong,” Helsley stated as he sat atop a bench in the dugout at Busch Stadium recently. “I think I had too much flexion in my knee trying to dodge the pain I would feel. Now I feel like I can land a little stiffer and stronger and use my front side more than I was. The stronger lower half is where a lot of the (velocity) comes from.”

There is more to Helsley’s fastball than the radar weapon reading (Ben Clemens at FanGraphs keeps in mind the pitch has actually enhanced shape, indicating more trip) and there’s more to Helsley than a huge fastball. He likewise deals with an upper-80s slider and a curveball that sits best around 80 miles per hour. How do you strike an 80 miles per hour curveball when you need to get ready for 100 miles per hour heat? The response is you do not.

More than 80 percent of the batters Helsley has actually faced this season have either started out or strike a ground ball. He has actually overwhelmed players. His 81.5-mph typical exit speed permitted is as great as it gets, and the 20 strikeouts in 10 innings promote themselves. This is as great a 10-inning stretch as we have actually seen from any reducer in current history.

The season is long and unforgiving, and eventually Helsley will stroll a batter and even get struck around a bit. That’s baseball. With a healthy knee though, Helsley appears like he’s making the dive from amazing however enigmatic arm to authentic closed down reducer for St. Louis. The arm skill was constantly apparent. Now he’s putting all of it together.

The brand-new Camden Yards

This year marks the start of a brand-new age of Orioles baseball. Not since the group is prepared to compete or since leading possibility Adley Rutschman has actually signed up with the MLB lineup (though that need to occur quickly), however since Camden Yards has brand-new measurements. The Orioles moved the left field wall back as much as 30 feet in some areas, and raised the wall height to 16 feet.

Here’s where the brand-new wall — the brand-new wall requires a label, possibly Mount Elias for GM Mike Elias, the designer of these hard-tanking O’s groups? — depends on relation to the old wall:

Seeing the measurements in a making is something. Seeing them on the field and in action is another, and currently there have actually been numerous fly balls that remained in the brand-new Camden Yards that would have left the old Camden Yards. Ryan Mountcastle had a 404-foot fly ball become a double off the top of the wall. Anthony Santander enjoyed a grand slam become a sacrifice fly.

The Orioles have actually played 16 house video games this season and I count 9 batted balls that plainly would have been crowning achievement with the old left field measurements that remained in the brand-new park (there are a couple of others that are borderline), consisting of Mountcastle’s double and Santander’s sac fly. Here are the 9:

Through 16 video games there have actually been 17 crowning achievement strike at Camden Yards (1.06 per video game), consisting of just 2 — 2! — to left field (0.13 per video game). Last season there were 45 crowning achievement in the very first 16 video games at Camden Yards (2.82 per video game), consisting of 15 to left field (0.94 per video game). In 2019, it was 63 homers through 16 video games (3.94 per video game), with 32 hit to left field (2.00 per video game).

Here are the 2 homers that have actually cleared Mount Elias this season:

Home runs are down all throughout the league this season, so it’s not simply the brand-new measurements that are adding to decrease in dingers in Baltimore. The Orioles have actually enhanced their pitching personnel too, cutting into the crowning achievement rate even more. Bottom line though, the brand-new measurements are eliminating crowning achievement, which was the objective.

“It is being done with the goal in mind of bringing the playing conditions more toward the league norm,” Elias informed The Score’s Travis Sawchik in January. “Since inception, it’s been an extreme park for home runs. That has only grown as the style of play in the major leagues has evolved.”

The unmentioned part is that the measurement modifications will benefit the Orioles more than injure them. From 2019-21, their pitchers quit 369 crowning achievement at Camden Yards while their players struck just 275. The distinction is approximately one crowning achievement every 2 video games. The O’s would not have actually done this unless they thought it would assist their particular group of gamers and advance the reconstruct.

Camden Yards is among baseball’s crown gems. It is a stunning ballpark and possibly the brand-new measurements will grow on me in time, however, today, the brand-new left field looks a bit gimmicky. The Orioles developed competitors and postseason groups in the very first 30 seasons at Camden Yards. Why the measurements needed to alter 3 years later on to put a competitor on the field, I’m uncertain.



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